Music

Hot Tuna: Keep On Truckin': The Very Best of Hot Tuna

For devout Tuna fans, Jorma and Jack are beloved members of a collective extended family.


Hot Tuna

Keep On Truckin': The Very Best of Hot Tuna

Label: Legacy
US Release Date: 2006-06-06
UK Release Date: 2006-06-06
Amazon
iTunes

It's quite amazing to consider how long Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady have been making beautiful music together. Their unique friendship and musical bond predate their days in Jefferson Airplane, and have remained a constant in an ever-changing world. That's the good news. The better news is that Jorma and Jack continue to share their talents well into a fifth decade, via the great side project, Hot Tuna. And with the public's newfound appreciation for the jam band aesthetic over the last several years, their music is as current now as ever before.

For devout Tuna fans, Jorma and Jack are beloved members of a collective extended family. For newcomers and casuals fans, however, the two are something of a best kept secret. Yet, long before Phish and Govt. Mule were household names, Hot Tuna was the preeminent extended play outfit. Heck, Jorma and Jack were stretching sets even before the Allmans joined the fray. And with countless performances (and nearly two dozen albums) on a 40-year-long resume, the Hot Tuna legend continues to grow.

Though it's impossible to quantify the scope of Hot Tuna with a single platter, The Very Best Of does an admirable job of distilling 14 tracks from the expansive Tuna catalogue. Culled from studio and stage, the material covers Tuna's work in the 1970s, and provides a wonderful primer for understanding and appreciating the musical direction (and vision) of Jorma and Jack. From the opening strums of "Hesitation Blues" to the final fading notes of "Killing Time in the Crystal City", the magic of Hot Tuna is everywhere for all to see and hear. Besides the precise musicianship, the key lies in the music's accessibility. Traditionally, jam band output has been the acquired taste of a dedicated fan base, loyal to the genre and its respective practitioners. But Jorma and Jack are so darn engaging, and their playing so seamless, that it's difficult not to instantly be drawn into their unique world of rollicking bluegrass rhythms, irrespective of one's preferences. Make no mistake, The Very Best Of isn't some ambling sonic journey to nowhere, but a collection of tunes from Tuna's maturation period. And there's something for everyone to enjoy … Jorma's vocals are steady and sure; his fretboard work, crisp at times, twangy at others, but consistently masterful. Compare the diversity of his playing on the breezy "True Religion" and the scorching electric frenzy of "Funky #7", (then wonder aloud why he's not more recognized as a phenomenal guitarist). And Jack? He provides the solid rhythmic foundation throughout, with a particularly notable solo in "Candy Man".

Ironically, of the album's song list, only three tracks come in north of the six-minute mark, thus, there aren't any big jams to indulge in. But no worries, the album radiates with unpretentious warmth, be it acoustic or electric, live or not. And despite The Very Best Of being a thumbnail sketch of Hot Tuna, there lies a remarkable gem among its offerings. "Water Song" is as exquisite an instrumental as ever recorded, laden with hooks and nuances that bring to mind a flowing hillside steam. It's a song that personifies all that Hot Tuna has accomplished, and continues to offer its fans and friends.

So, if you're new to Tuna, The Very Best Of is a perfect entre into the mix. And if you're a card-carrying Tuna aficionado, then the tracks will be a pleasant addition to the CD collection. But no matter who you are, or how long you've been into the band, just remember … if you don't know Jorma, you don't know Jack.

8

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less
3

Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

Keep reading... Show less
5
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image